Meanwhile, on Mount Hanyu outside Zhong Ning City, Zhong Province…
Inside the cave of cold jade, Yu Miao stood gnashing his teeth by an ice bed, trembling all over as he watched his two sons whining miserably. They did not look like humans at all; once handsome and debonair, they had become two rotting and bloating fleshes, with foul, pitch black pus dripping out of their wounds. Some unknown insects could also be seen worming in and out of their bodies, and faint chewing sound could be heard inside them from time to time.
The Elders supporting Yu Miao had gathered around the bed, their faces unsightly as they fixed their eyes on the Secluded Elder who was inspecting the conditions of the two laying on the bed.
Four hours ago, while Yu Miao was discussing with them how they could take over Dong Hai Province, his two sons suddenly shrieked and fell to the ground in front of everyone, with all sorts of strange injuries spreading across their bodies. Their condition soon became so severe that even Yu Miao and all the Elders present could not save them. In the absence of other means, they came to Mount Hanyu in a hurry and asked the Secluded Elder for help.
The Secluded Elder examined the bodies of the two with a heavy expression. He carefully took some foul-smelling fluid oozing out of their bodies and tested it with several different medicinal potions. When he was done, he still could not figure out how their injuries were caused.
After pondering for a moment, he produced a jade knife and used it to remove a wiggly worm covered with poisonous black stings from one of the men's wound. But, as soon as the worm, which was not more than an inch long, was exposed to the light, it immediately swelled to the size of a human head and then suddenly exploded into countless poisonous stings that flew in all directions. It frightened Yu Miao and others, who threw out all kinds of bone talismans hastily, which transformed into colorful light barriers and had everyone protected.
The air rang with a shrill whistle as countless extremely sharp and tiny black poisonous stings pierced through the air and struck the light barriers. A tremendous counterforce crushed them into powder, which quickly disappeared amidst wisps of black smoke.
The Secluded Elder's face grew uglier as he looked gravely at Yu Miao and asked in a deep voice, "Who the hell have you offended? This is not the magic familiar to the Directorate of Celestials. It's more like the heavenly punishment unleashed by the Ancient Gods, who according to the legends had mastered the Great Dao of Heaven and Earth! All their wounds, including these poisonous worms, are the manifestation of the divine power, and that's why they exist between the state of real and unreal..."
He paused for a brief moment, then shook his head and went on, "Ancient Gods are the true gods born from the Heavenly Dao who can control destiny by nature and attack with the Primordial Dao of Divinity that is far superior to the Dao of Ghost Gods we at the Directorate of Celestials use today. As you all know, the so-called Ghost Gods we worship today are nothing more than powerful fiends from other domains, and they are incomparable to the real Gods of the ancient times."
"Is there a cure?" asked Yu Miao through his tightly clenched teeth, his face twisted with anguish.
The Secluded Elder thought for a moment, then he nodded and said in a serious tone, "There is a cure, of course!"
That filled Yu Miao's heart with hope. He quickly bowed and said, "Great-grandfather, please…"
"There is certainly a cure, it's just that I don't know it," said the Secluded Elder as he gave Yu Miao a glare. "Well, there may be records about curing such conditions in Liangzhu's Secret Palace, but you will never find such knowledge in Zhong Province's Directorate of Celestials. You all should also know that there are descendants of the Ancient God in Great Yu's imperial court, but those are the people you will never find in Zhong Province!"
His words caused a pang of disappointment to rise in the otherwise hopeful Yu Miao. 'Why did you talk like that if you don't know the cure? Aren't you making me happy for nothing?' Looking down at his two sons who were crying in pain, Yu Miao felt his heart bleeding.
Although Yu Miao had many sons, at least a hundred times more than Yu Mu who had seized the power of Clan Master from him, few were seasoned enough. Clans who served the Directorate of Celestials had their prosperity dependant on how many of their members possessed the ability to communicate with the Ghost Gods and practice magic. Amongst Yu Miao's sons, less than thirty percent had the aptitude for cultivation; and out of those, only three had excellent aptitudes comparable to Yu Miao himself.
Of these three most excellent sons, Yu Lei was killed by Wu Qi, so the remaining two were Yu Miao's future hope of overthrowing Yu Mu and regaining control of the clan. Though young in age, they were patient and cunning, and had become good assistants to Yu Miao in everyday affairs. Furthermore, they had cultivated to a level very close to a Sun Oracle, which placed them on top of the younger generation in Zhong Province.
But now, Yu Miao could only watch them howl and struggle in front of him, watching their lives get consumed by an unknown curse.
"Is there any way Great-grandfather can get the method to get rid of this curse?" asked Yu Miao dryly, the muscles of his face shivering.
The Secluded Elder looked up at Yu Miao and asked in a flat tone, "Has Yu Clan in Zhong Province ever been close with the Secret Palace?"
The Elders present shook their heads at the same time, looking at each other with strange expressions on their faces. How could a mere Yu Clan in Zhong Province ever be close with the Secret Palace? On the contrary, Yu Clan in Liangzhu did have a pretty strong standing in the Secret Palace. However, no one present was expecting help from them, because they all knew what kind of relationship there was between the Yu Clan in Liangzhu and the one in Zhong Province represented by Yu Miao.
Yu Miao cleared his throat as he frowned at his son and said with great difficulty, "I've heard that some of Yu Mu's immediate seniors are in high positions in the Secret Palace, and if we just ask them to help us get rid of the curse..."
The Secluded Elder slowly rose to his feet, then shook his head and sighed. "Make your own decision! If you ask Yu Mu for help, you'll never regain control of Yu Clan in Zhong Province. It's up to you to decide whether you want two of your most outstanding sons or the power of the Yu Clan in Zhong Province!"
With a deep sigh, the Secluded Elder walked slowly into the inner area of the cave with his hands clasped behind his back. "How strange…Primordial Dao of Divinity?" He muttered in a low voice as he walked, "I remember I did read about such a mysterious power in an incomplete ancient record when I was young...It seems to be the divine power produced with the Divine Meridian of Heaven Punishment! The only people who can use the Primordial Dao of Divinity and are currently serving Great Yu are the descendants of Hanba Clan, Xiangliu Clan, and a few other clans, but none of their divine powers behave like this!"
All the Elders present watched helplessly as the Secluded Elder dwindled into the darkness, before turning their eyes to Yu Miao.
Yu Miao sunk onto the bed as if all his strength had drained from him at that moment. He stared at his two sons, and tears suddenly began to stream down his cheeks. He could not remember how many years he had not shed a tear for. It seemed to him that he had not wept after he used a curse to kill someone for the first time, a servant who did not obey his order, when he was only seven years old. After all these years, he always thought his heart was hardened enough for him to not feel any pain or sorrow. But now, it seemed that he had overestimated himself.
'A man sheds no tears unless deeply hurt.' At the moment, Yu Miao's face was wet with tears and his heart was in a mess.
"Who the hell is behind this? I've used all my power and even asked Gui Shao to figure out the culprit with divination, but why couldn't I find out who had done it? Who can have such a divine power to cover all the karma so that I can't find him?"
The Elders around him made no answer. In fact, not only had Yu Miao used all his power to find out who had cast the curse in the dark, but they all had aided him during the process as well. According to common sense, with so many Sun Oracles working together, even a Supreme Oracle could not completely cover the trace of aura he left after casting the curse; but, they just could not find any clues!
Could the caster be an existence mightier than a Supreme Oracle? But that was impossible! Apart from the fact that Supreme Oracles already represented the strongest power in the world, even if there were existences who were stronger than them, why would they attack Yu Miao's sons? Why didn't they just kill Yu Miao straightaway?
Everyone looked at each other in bewilderment and lost the ability to think.
With his teeth tightly clenched, Yu Miao looked at his sons, wondering if he should ask Yu Mu for help. Perhaps he could only rely on Yu Mu to get help from the Secret Palace. But once he bowed to Yu Mu, the power of the Yu Clan in Zhong Province would never return to him!
As the Secluded Elder had said, it was up to Yu Miao himself to decide which was more important: the power of the Yu Clan in Zhong Province, or the lives of his two sons.
While he was hesitating, a few young Oracles barged in and bowed to him in panic, then told him several pieces of news that made his eyes bloodshot as he almost went berserk.
The first piece of news was related to the powerful figures who were scheming with Yu Miao to seize the power of Dong Hai Province. Just an hour ago, their territories had been hit by a massive plague of locusts and pestilence almost simultaneously. Countless huge locusts, each measuring more than ten feet long, had gathered into a colossal swarm and consumed almost everything that was edible in their territory in just a quarter of an hour. At the same time, more than ninety percent of the people living on their territory were bedridden because of the outbreak of a virus.
The second piece of news was about Yu Miao's children and the descendants of the many Elders of the Yu Clan. They had been viciously cursed at the same time, and several people had died in just one hour, their bodies dissolving into blood and pus. Some people even used all kinds of weapons and magic to attack their relatives as if they had gone crazy. At the moment, although blood had yet to gather into a river in the Yu Clan's mansion, it did converge into little streams.
The last piece of news was that many of Yu Miao's shops were set on fire at the same time. A large number of precious goods were burned, and many shopkeepers were killed, resulting in a severe loss. According to the information that was sent to them a quarter of an hour ago, Yu Miao would be bankrupt now, if not counting the money he secretly kept in the vaults of his own mansion.
The succession of bad news nearly knocked Yu Miao out.
With his body swaying, Yu Miao waved his hands and roared, "Dong Hai Province! This has got to do with that punk Tan Lang! I won't let him off so easily! I swear I won't let him off!"
Yu Miao was mad; he had gone berserk!
The fact that the plague of locusts and pestilence had only broken out in the territory of the powerful figures with whom he had colluded made him realize that the series of unfortunate events must be related to Dong Hai Province and Wu Qi!
At this moment, Yu Miao was determined to destroy Dong Hai Province at all costs!